Sunday, December 31, 2006
It wasn't so much the list of the top stories that showed bias, although there is no other explanation for placing "Disaster in Darfur" as the No. 10 story of the year. This is an issue that only left-wing elitists and Hollywood types (George Clooney) care about. Ask the average American to tell you where Darfur is and they'll probably say it's a small town in Indiana. People starving is Africa has been going on for the past 100 years. There's nothing new here other than the liberal tail wagging the dog.
The tip-off that most of the people voting were liberals was the end of the final recap story, where the AP said, "Just missing out on the Top 10 was mounting concern over climate change and global warming, highlighted by the release of Al Gore's movie, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' and alarming new warnings from many scientists."
Global warming is another of those phony stories that the far left perpetuates so it can scare people into voting for Democrats and funding "tree hugger" causes. The movie itself barely made a blip at the box office, finishing way behind such other fairy tale films as "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" and "Snakes on a Plane."
Here are some significant stories that did not make AP's list. In fact, none of these were listed on The Associated Press' original ballot of 40 suggested stories for the Top 10, which shows the bias of the people conducting the poll.
The most underreported story of 2006 was the new wave of philanthropy among some of the world's richest people. Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, announced he was giving $30 billion of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates, the word's richest man, also announced he was retiring from Microsoft to devote all his time to charitable causes. That was a big story, but the left doesn't like to promote private philanthropy. The far left believes government exists to support everyone in the world and the middle class should pay more in taxes to fund liberal causes.
There was also an interesting book released in 2006 called "Who Really Cares" by Arthur Brooks that shows that liberal are stingy when it comes to helping the needy. It's mainly conservatives and people of faith who are generous with their money. The book got little play in the liberal media.
Another story largely ignored by the mainstream media was the demise of the liberal talk radio network, Air America. Two years ago, when a group of well-funded liberals launched the so-called "alternative to conservative talk radio," every major newspaper in the country ran a front page story promoting Air America. The network has been rocked by financial scandals and declining ratings, leading to the filing of bankruptcy in 2006. Why wasn't this story on the front page of the very same liberal newspapers?
The failure of Katie Couric to lift CBS out of third-place in the network news ratings is another major story ignored by the media. Couric, a darling of the left, has tanked in the ratings, drawing fewer viewers than Dan Rather.
The far left has also developed collective amnesia when it comes to reporting on the massive corruption and mismanagement of the Katrina cleanup. No, not by the Bush administration. The liberal news media is all over that. Billions of dollars have been squandered by the Democratic governor of Louisiana and the Democratic mayor of New Orleans and their assorted cronies.
To keep up with more examples of liberal media bias, check out these two great Web sites. The Media Research Center (http://www.mrc.org) is the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias. And nobody does a better job of keeping an eye on The New York Times than http://www.timeswatch.org
There's a reason why Time magazine has chosen "bloggers" as its Person of the Year. There is very little trust left in the mainstream media (the big city newspapers, the three networks, CNN) and people are turning to alternative sources for the truth.
Perhaps the decline of the mainstream media should also be added to the list of underreported stories for 2006.
Tony's Top 10 Movies
1) Over the Hedge
2) Happy Feet
3) Flushed Away
6) IceAge: The Meltdown
7) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Oldest child's Top 10 Movies
1) Happy Feet
2) Flushed Away
3) Over the Hedge
4) IceAge: The Meltdown
6) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Youngest child's Top 10 Movies
2) Over the Hedge
3) Happy Feet
4) Flushed Away
5) Ice Age: The Meltdown
6) Open Season
8) Monster House
9) The Ant Bully
10) The Wild
Saturday, December 30, 2006
That John Perzel has more lives than a black cat.
State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, a Reading Democrat, sent a letter to fellow Democrats in the state House of Representatives Saturday announcing he will support Republican John M. Perzel for another two-year term as Speaker of the House.
This is a political bombshell. Perzel was attempting to strongarm a Democrat from Philly to turn for him, but Caltagirone was never mentioned as a potential turncoat.
If Perzel somehow keeps his post as Speaker despite the fact that Democrats now have a 1-vote majority in the House, the only conclusion is that Perzel has sold his soul to the devil in return for keeping control of the House.
Nothing else could explain the defection of a lifelong Democrat like Caltagirone, who will face the wrath of fellow Dems in Berks, his pals in the House and Gov. Ed Rendell. You have to wonder what Perzel promised Caltagirone to get his vote.
The defection could have a domino effect on other Democrats who can't stand Bill DeWeese, who was in line to be the next Speaker of the House.
Of course, all this hinges on Perzel getting support from every single member of the 101-member Republican caucus and Perzel has made a lot of enemies in the past two years by supporting Rendell's agenda and helping orchestrate the disastrous legislative pay raise that cost Republicans control of the House.
The stakes are enormous. The party that controls the House determines who heads committees, where tens of millions of tax dollars are spent and how far Gov. Ed Rendell gets in his second term.
If the Republicans can hold the Speaker post, Rendell is a lame duck even before he is sworn in for a second term. The Republicans control the state Senate by a comfortable 29-21 margin. Rendell's only hope of pushing through his tax-and-spend liberal agenda was Democratic control of the House.
This is truly a case of the evil of two lessers. Republicans can't stand Perzel. Democrats can't stand DeWeese. Who is willing to hold their noses and vote for either man as Speaker?
The text of a letter (obtained by The Associated Press) sent from Caltagirone to fellow members of the Democratic caucus:
December 30, 2006
To the Members of the Democratic Caucus:
I am writing to inform you that, after extended and careful deliberation, I have determined that I cannot support Rep. William DeWeese for election as speaker of the House of Representatives.
I have served as a member of the House of Representatives for thirty years. During that time, I have been a steadfast member of the Democratic Caucus, supporting our positions and candidates. In the past legislative session, my campaign committee contributed $30,000 to the House Democratic Campaign Committee, and $23,500 to individual Democratic House candidates. I also helped raise additional thousands in support of our Democratic candidates. I have been a loyal Democrat since I entered politics, and will remain a member of the Democratic Party.
However, I have become increasingly distressed over the years with the manner in which our Democratic leaders have conducted the business of the Caucus. The leaders of our Caucus have shown little regard for many members of the Caucus, the constituents they represent, and the legislative initiatives we should be supporting. Instead, they have operated the Caucus as a personal fiefdom, promoting their own personal and political ambitions behind a wall of secrecy and petty personal vindictiveness.
As you are aware, at the request of Rep. DeWeese, I recently provided him with a list of reforms which, I believed, would enable our Caucus to embark on a new era of transparency and fairness. I had hoped that with the election of Rep. McCall and other new members to leadership positions in the Caucus, these proposed changes would be seriously considered, and adopted.
Instead, all that I have received from Rep. DeWeese in response is his usual outpouring of obfuscation. Unfortunately, I no longer have any confidence in his ability to lead the Democratic Caucus, and do not believe him and his associates to be capable of fulfilling the responsibilities necessary to lead the House of Representatives.
I am under no delusions as to the nature of partisan politics in the House of Representatives. However, Rep. Perzel has pledged to implement House rules which reflect the current split in the membership of the House, and to conduct the affairs of the House in an open, inclusive and fair manner. I have always found Rep. Perzel to be a man of his word, and serious about issues of public policy. I believe the people of Pennsylvania will be best served if he is elected as speaker on January 2, and he will have my support.
I look forward to working with each of you in the upcoming legislative session. I believe that all of us, Democrat and Republican, can work together for the people of Pennsylvania.
Thomas R. Caltagirone
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Just got a press release from state Sen. Rob Wonderling, who represents the sprawling 24th Senate District in Montgomery County and the Lehigh Valley.
Wonderling, a freshman Republican who easily won re-election on Nov. 7, says in the release that he will vote for new rules designed to make the legislative process more open to the public when the Senate returns to session next week.
Wonderling said the Senate expects to consider seven reform proposals compiled by Republican and Democratic leaders when the 2007-08 legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Under the new rules:
1) Session times will be limited to between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.
2) Amendments will be posted to the Internet before being offered on the Senate floor.
3) The Senate will wait at least six hours before voting on an amended bill or a conference committee report.
4) All roll call votes will be posted on the Internet as soon as possible after a vote, but always within 24 hours of a vote.
5) Committee votes on bills will be posted on the Internet within 48 hours of the vote.
6) The Senate’s Legislative Journal – which includes the full text of all floor debates – will be posted on the Internet upon Senate approval of the Journal or within 45 days, whichever is earlier.
7) An updated fiscal note will be prepared if a bill is amended after consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee, if the amendment has a fiscal impact.
“Openness and accountability are the hallmarks of good government, and these measures will improve public access to information about the bills we vote on in the Senate,” Wonderling said. “We have an obligation to the people we represent to make this information more readily available in a timely manner, and these reforms are critical as we continue our efforts to build the public’s trust.”
That's the kind of talk we like hearing from our elected representatives. In the past, it's been just talk. But with the ouster of 55 members of the political aristocracy in 2006 though the ballot box or force retirements and the Republican loss of the state House, maybe ... just maybe ... the message is beginning to sink in.
Wonderling is one of the good guys in Harrisburg. He's served his constituents well during the past four years and he is a rising star in the state Senate. Same goes for John Rafferty, the state senator from the 44th District, which covers parts of Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties. Rafferty has also been outspoken on the need to clean up the way things are done in Harrisburg.
Unfortunately, you have a lot of political dinosaurs still left in Harrisburg whose only goal is get as much for themselves as they can. For many of these obstructionists to reform, 2008 is right around the corner when voters can get rid of 25 state Senators (and all 203 members of the House).
Over in the House, new Majority Leader Keith McCall, a Democrat from Carbon County, said there will be no reforms proposed for a vote when the House reconvenes on Jan. 2. Instead, House members will be asked to adopt the same rules now in place for a temporary period while they work out reforms to be adopted later.
Tim Potts of DemocracyRisingPa raised some interesting questions about the House leadership's reluctance to jump on the reform bandwagon.
In the group's latest newsletter, Potts ask the following:
1. Why does the House need more time think about adopting reforms that were proposed more than six months ago? What have Speaker John Perzel, R-Phila., and Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, been waiting for?
2. Does anyone in the Senate believe that six hours is enough time for ordinary citizens to know what’s proposed and advise their Senators of their views?
3. Why do none of the Senate and House leaders propose to:
· Make per diems reimbursements for documented expenses instead of a second salary at taxpayer expense?
· Make health care benefits, such as free health insurance while in office and free life-time health care for members and their families who serve 10 years or more, consistent with the health care benefits of ordinary working people?
· Curtail car allowances in the House, which can require taxpayers to pay up to $650 a month plus insurance?
· Prohibit catered meals while the House and Senate are in session?
· Require all expenses to be posted, by member, on the Internet?
· Require an annual audit of all House and Senate accounts using the highest standards of the accounting profession?
· Connect the dots between legislation, lobbying and campaign contributions?
4. Why should any member of the House vote for a Speaker who has stifled meaningful improvements demanded by the citizens for more than a year and a half since the pay raise?
All good questions waiting for answers from the new Democraty leadership.
The Democrats have gotten a free ride in Harrisburg while Republican voters were ousting leaders and tossing out career politicians. With the exception of Mike Veon, all the Democratic leaders who orchestrated the payjacking were returned to office. It's time for Democrats to start demanding that their side of the aisle join the reform movement.
(By the way, DemocracyRisingPA, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens group, is asking for financial help to continue looking out for Pennsylvania residents. If you'd like to donate to the organization, you can send your check to P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013.)
— George Harrison
Everyone has a favorite Beatle. Mine is George Harrison. Odd choice I know. Hardly anyone noticed Harrison while the Beatles ruled the musical world for eight years. Turns out George was a late bloomer.
Harrison was only 26 when the Beatles broke up in 1970. If you were asked to predict the member of the Beatles who would enjoy the biggest success as a solo artist after the band broke up, hardly anyone would have chosen George Harrison.
Harrison, the "quiet Beatle," was always in the shadow of the Paul McCartney, the cute one and the best singer, or John Lennon, the smart one, and even lovable Ringo Starr.
Relegated to one or two songs on Beatles albums dominated by Lennon-McCartney tunes, Harrison's compositions were nothing more than album fillers for much of the Beatles run through the 1960s.
Harrison was credited with writing just 22 of the more than 200 songs recorded and officially released by The Beatles during their eight-year reign. Harrison came up with an occasional gem ("Taxman," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Here Comes The Sun") but of the Beatles' 27 No. 1 hits, Harrison's only contribution was "Something" from the "Abbey Road" album.
Harrison built up a stockpile of excellent songs in the late 1960s and finally got to share them with the world when the Beatles self-destructed as the decade came to a close.
His 1970 triple-album "All Things Must Pass" went platinum and spawned several hit singles. It was No. 1 for seven weeks. To this day, it is still regarded by critics as the best solo effort by a Beatle and is included on most lists of the best albums of all time.
His first post-Beatles single, "My Sweet Lord" was the No. 1 single for four weeks in the winter of 1970. It was followed by two other Top 10 hits from the album — "Isn't It A Pity" and "What Is Life." And there are a dozen other great songs on the album.
Enlisting the aid of Ringo Starr and longtime friend Eric Clapton as well as Billy Preston and Dave Mason, Harrison surprised everyone with the depth of his first solo release, which contained 16 original songs along with alternate versions of songs and extended jam sessions.
In addition to the title track, "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life," stand-out songs include "Awaiting On You All," "Art of Dying" and "Hear Me Lord." Pop gems like "Wah-Wah" and "Apple Scruffs" rival anything the Beatles released.
Although he dabbled with eastern mysticism from the days of "Sgt. Pepper," Harrison expressed a much deeper level of spirituality in "All Things Must Pass." While Harrison's lyrics can sometimes sound sanctimonious on their own, legendary "Wall of Sound" producer Phil Spector was brought in to create a sophisticated sound that often covers the awkwardness of the words.
Harrison's voice, never his strong suit during his Beatles days, matured during the recording "All Things Must Pass" and a confident Harrison offered strong vocals on all of the album's songs.
For a solo career that started with such promise, Harrison would never again duplicate the success of "All Things Must Pass" either commercially or artistically.
Harrison hit No. 1 again in 1973 with the single "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" from the album "Living In The Material World" but the record didn't sell anywhere near the copies of its predecessor and critical praise waned.
The best song Harrison wrote in 1973 was "Photograph," which he gave to Ringo Starr for his self-titled album. With Harrison on guitar and backup vocals, "Photograph" became a No. 1 hit for Ringo in October 1973 and still holds up today as one of the catchiest pop songs ever.
Harrison would release eight more albums in the 1970s and early 1980s to mixed commercial and critical success, occasionally cracking the Top 20. He would not have another major hit until "All Those Years Ago," his tribute to slain bandmate John Lennon, which peaked at No. 2 in 1981.
His last appearance on the pop music chart was "Got My Mind Set On You," a Jeff Lynn-produced remake of an early 1960s hit that the Beatles performed in their early days. Harrison's bouncy cover version went to No. 1 in the United States.
Harrison returned to the spotlight one more time as a member of the super-group the Traveling Wilburys, joining Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne to release two excellent albums. The group disbanded after Roy Orbison died.
George Harrison lost his battle with cancer in late 2001. He was 58. Unlike John Lennon's untimely death at the hands of an assassin, hardly anyone thinks about George Harrison anymore.
Five years after his death, we should recall the immense contributions George Harrison made to the world as a musician and a humanitarian.
Life is one long enigma, my friend. Live on, live on, the answer's at the end. Don't be so hard on the ones that you love. It's the ones that you love we think so little of.
— From the song "The Answer's at the End" by George Harrison
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The person who sent the e-mail is a well-known Republican who can't stand seeing what's happened to the party over the past two years.
This is the gist of the note:
"I just read the newspaper article, "Perzel says he won't move before House votes on speaker. " Perzel's spokesman Al Bowman was quoted as saying, "Rep. John Perzel does not plan to relinquish the offices that he occupies before the House votes on its next speaker Jan 2." He further states, it's a question of whether he feels he can still make a difference in the Legislature, and I don't see anything to the fact that he cannot."
Was Bowman out of the country when his boss passed up the opportunity to give real property tax relief (The Commonwealth Caucus Plan) for Pennsylvania taxpayers? Perzel teamed up with Democratic Gov. Rendell to legalize gaming in Pennsylvania that provides little relief for Pennsylvania taxpayers.
In addition, Bowman was still out of the country when his boss orchestrated the middle of the night pay grab to include unvouchered expenses, the vehicle used so that Legislators can pocket the cash immediately, a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Only upon public outcry was the pay raise repealed. Perzel's comments after a 2-month hibernation, was 'we did it in 1995' and migrant cow milkers make more money than legislators, so they deserve the pay raise.
As a result of Perzel's arrogance and ignorance, there were 26 open Republican seats in the 2006 election cycle. Almost half of the incumbent Republicans lost in the primary and the other half retired as a result of the pay raise vote. End result the Democrats are in the majority in the House. For that, the Dems have John Perzel to thank.
In response to Bowman's question, whether Perzel feels he can still make a difference in the Legislature, and he does not see anything to the fact that Perzel cannot. Perzel has made a difference, which is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth and their families.
More than anyone else, Perzel has caused the defeat of the Republican majority in the state House. Perzel has this dream that he can persuade 1 Dem Legislator to either switch parties, stay a Dem but cast their vote for him for Speaker, or stay off the floor and not vote for speaker on Jan 2.
Rendell has already said publicly he will personally speak to Dem Legislators to prevent any of the scenarios from happening. My money is on Rendell. It is time for Prezel to face reality and move out of the Speaker's offices , and he has only himself to blame."
The Republican Party has flung itself over the cliff under the leadership of John Perzel, Robert Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill. And of course, you have the behind-the-scenes puppetmaster, Bob Asher. Their record is one of utter failure that has cost Pennsylvania Republicans a U.S. Senate seat, four U.S. Congressional seats, the governor's mansion and control of the state House.
What more will it take for Republicans to dump these failed leaders and begin rebuilding the party? The clock is ticketing.
Friday, December 22, 2006
The fat lady is singing up a storm in Chester County and the sound is carrying all the way to Northeast Philadelphia and the halls of the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
With Thursday's concession by Republican Shannon Royer in the last disputed Legislative race, the Democrats have officially won a majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Allow me to rephrase that. The Republicans lost the majority they held before the Nov. 7 election.
Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith won the 156th House District seat by a mere 28 votes, but that one victory tips the balance of power in Harrisburg for the first time in 12 years. Imagine that. Twenty-eight votes will mean the difference in where millions of tax dollars are spent and which party gets the lion's share of the patronage and the amenities holding state office has to offer.
The biggest loser is John Perzel, who goes from Speaker of the House to the Republican Doghouse. Perzel presided over the biggest disaster since the Titanic sailed on its maiden voyage.
The 109-seat majority the Republicans enjoyed before the November massacre is now a 102-101 Democratic edge.
I hate to say I told you so, but I warned every Republican who would listen back in June that Perzel would sink the party.
I spoke those words to several incumbent Republican legislators, Republican committee people and GOP candidates for legislature. Nobody listened. Or they heard me but decided they didn't have the backbone to stand up to Perzel.
The only chance Republicans had to hold on to the majority in the state House this year was to toss Perzel overboard before the November elections. The party faithful refused ... and they went down with the ship.
Now we have to live with two years of Bill "Mushmouth" DeWeese. And with DeWeese's brain (Mike Veon) surgically removed by the voters in Western Pennsylvania, the lights will be on, but nobody will be home in Harrisburg.
I guess I shouldn't be too upset at the GOP's reversal of fortunes. It's probably worth two years of Democratic control of the state House to finally be rid ourselves of John Perzel, whose arrogance and asinine behavior were allowed to fester unchecked too long in Harrisburg.
We can only hope Perzel will go away. During an interview with the Pennsylvania Cable Network earlier this year, Perzel said, "I don't think that I would want to continue doing this if my party were not to win. I would not enjoy being in the minority at this stage in my life, I would not enjoy that any more."
Of course, Perzel says a lot of things that he doesn't mean.
The ouster of Republican Senate leaders Robert Jubilirer and Chip Brightbill in the May primary and Perzel's downfall in November are steps in the right direction, not only for the Republican Party but for Pennsylvania in general.
Three of the biggest obstacles to reforming Pennsylvania's corrupt political system are gone. Unfortunately, we still have Ed Rendell, who couldn't spell R-E-F-O-R-M if you spotted him the first three and the last two letters.
And don't count on DeWeese to pull a Nancy Pelosi and promise to "drain the swamp" in Harrisburg. DeWeese has wallowed for decades in the political muck of Harrisburg.
Once again, Republicans took care of business while Democrats rewarded partisanship and greed.
New House members will be sworn in Jan. 2. Now is the time to get a message to your local legislator that you're on to them and you will remember in 2008 how they voted for legislative leadership positions. With Perzel out of the picture, the Pennsylvania Legislature can have a fresh start. But that means new leadership across the board.
Wouldn't it great if Democrats develop some backbone and unload DeWeese in favor of a true reformer? I won't hold my breath. The Democrats are lemmings. This is after all, the party that gave us the Three Stooges of Pennsylvania politics: Rendell, Catherine Baker Knoll and Bobby Casey Jr.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
What a load of manure.
First, it's doubtful Casey Jr. showed up for work even half the time in 2005 and 2006 and secondly, the fact that the office of state tresurer has managed to run by itself since Casey spent all of 2006 running for Senate shows you what a nothing job he had.
The headline on the AP story was "Senator-elect Casey touts record as state treasurer" but it should have been "Silent Bob Speaks, But Has Nothing To Say."
The most interesting part of the story was Casey's quote on the infamous pay raise.
"That whole saga, the pay raise, it's a dark, sad, disturbing chapter of Pennsylvania history," Casey said.
Well, duh. No kidding, Einstein.
While Casey finally put the pay raise fiasco in perspective, I find it amusing that it's taken him two years to figure it out.
This was, after all, the man who signed the paychecks that went out to all the payjackers in 2005.
Casey could have stood up for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and stopped the payjacking, but he decided to sit it out. Hide out was probably more like it. The election is over and we still don't have a clue about where Casey stands on any issues. He probably doesn't even know himself.
Back to the pay raise for one last time. Casey, according to the AP article, has been named a defendant in a lawsuit filed Monday that claims judges' cost-of-living increases — as currently structured — are illegal.
Casey was also a defendant in the original payjacking lawsuit, but somehow managed to weasel out of the entire mess. Much like his mentor (or should that be puppetmaster?) Ed Rendell.
Just like Teflon Eddie, Casey managed to fool enough people in Pennsylvania to elect him a U.S. Senator. And don't be surprised if the phone keeps ringing at the governor's mansion so Bobby Jr. can ask Uncle Eddie how to vote on bills in the Senate.
Here's a frightening thought. If Arlen Specter fails to complete his current term because of health reasons, Ed Rendell can appoint a replacement. There's talk that Rendell would appoint himself U.S. Senator. Can Pennsylvania (or the nation) survive Rendell and Casey in the U.S. Senate?
Monday, December 18, 2006
I will be returning to WPAZ 1370 Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 4:05 p.m. to 5 p.m. for more great talk radio. My Monday stint as guest host went very well, with 10 listeners calling in to join the broadcast, including state Rep. Tom Quigley (R-146th Dist.) who listened to the show on his computer in Harrisburg and called in to talk about the GOP legislative agenda for the new term starting in January.
As Rep. Quigley pointed out, no one is sure whether the Republicans or Democrats will be control of the House in 2007. A Chester County judge has ordered a hand recount of the ballots in the 156th Dist. race, where the Democrat was declared the winner by 23 votes. The winner of this race will tip the balance of control of the House. As things stand today, the Democrats have 102 seats and the Republicans have 101 seats.
(An appeal by the Democrats to have the hand count overturned was rejected late Monday. Commonwealth Court President Judge James Gardner Colins sent the matter back to Chester County Court, ordering the recount in the 156th District to begin Tuesday as scheduled and to be completed by 5 p.m. on Dec. 26.)
Monday's WPAZ show was a blur. We went through a variety of topics during the 50-minutes of air time, including the "pension crisis," the "transportation crisis," the "welfare crisis," the "healthcare crisis" and the "property tax crisis." Do you sense a pattern here? Pennsylvania is in serious trouble, but voters return Ed "What, Me Worry?" Rendell and most of the incumbent legislators.
For more on the sad state of affairs in Pennylvania, tune in Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. My guest will be Eric Epstein, coordinator of http://rockthecapital.org/, the Harrisburg-based watchdog group.
You can join in the discussion by calling WPAZ at 610-326-4000 during the live broadcast, which can also be heard through your computer by going to http://www.1370wpaz.com/ and clicking on the "live audio" button at the top of the page.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Why do so many people regret giving Rendell a second term? What if people realize they made a mistake the day after the polls closed? What if the governor starts behaving badly after winning a second term. One Philadelphia columnist has come up with a new nickname for "Fast Eddie." He's now calling Rendell "Crazy Eddie."
Maybe we should have a 30-day return policy on election returns. Can't voters change their mind before Rendell is sworn in to a second term?
Here's what Gov. Rendell has been up to since Election Day.
1) He vetoed a bill that would have allowed communities to spread out collecting of the $52 local services tax, effectively slapping Pennsylvania workers in the face. Instead of giving municipalities the ability to spread out the tax burden (maybe even $1 a week), Rendell wants the $52 to come out of your first pay check in 2007.
2) A week after the election, Rendell floated a trail balloon about raising the state gas tax (already the second-highest in the nation) by 12.5 cents. That would accompany raising vehicle registration fees and driver's license fees. And Rendell wouldn't mind seeing an increase in the realty transfer tax.
3) Rendell signed a bill (passed without debate by the Legislature) to permit casinos to serve free booze to gamblers.
4) Rendell appointed his favorite lobbyist (the guy who gets free rides on Rendell's private plane) to a committee that is supposed to draft new lobbyist disclosure regulations. Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop. Rendell's pick, lawyer and lobbyist Richard Gmerek, is the same man responsible for getting the state's last lobbyist disclosure overturned in court.
5) Rendell accepted a pay raise on Dec. 1, boosting his salary from $161,173 to $164,396 a year.
6) Rendell gave one of his political pals, Joe Conti, a $150,000-a-year job as CEO of the Pennsylvania's liquor store monopoly. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has operated without a CEO for decades and already has a three-member board overseeing the operation. Each of those board members makes $65,000 a year. But Rendell gave Conti a job without telling the three board members ahead of time. While Conti is a Republican, he is credited with helping push through Rendell's agenda (tax increases, casino gambling, the pay raise) through the Senate. In Rendell's world, party affiliation doesn't matter. If you scratch Fast Eddie's back, he'll reward you with a taxpayer-funded job (see Joe Hoeffel). Conti, by the way, chose to retire as a state senator and collect a big fat pension instead of facing the voters this year. But Uncle Eddie took care of him and sent you the bill.
7) Rendell has proposed turning over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company in order to raise more money for his out-of-control spending.
8) Rendell has hinted he wants to raise the state sales tax in 2007. Not to cut property taxes, but to raise more money for his pet projects.
I didn't vote for Rendell. And judging from the letters and calls to The Mercury, nobody else is willing to admit voting for Rendell either.
Here's a sampling of recent reader comments about the governor:
"You asked for it. For all those who wanted "Slick Eddie" for four more years, grab your ankles. Not a week since the election and he was thinking of new taxes to help Philadelphia. Then he vetoed a bill that would allow you to pay a new $52 tax weekly (a new tax that was not mentioned prior to the election). He now wants to raise vehicle registration fees and the gas tax. This past election, voters imposed their own form of term limits. Do not forget that as your taxes go up over the next four years, you asked for it."
"Only five days since Fast Eddie Rendell was re-elected and already it looks like a tax increase on gas plus an increase for vehicle registration. I guess what really surprises me is that it took as long as it did. Way to go all you idiots who voted for him. He lied again and you fools believed him."
"I hope all you people who voted for Rendell are happy. He's only in office a week and already they're proposing higher taxes for gas and other taxes, too."
"Gov. Ed Rendell, the tax man, is on his way. He said he's moving Pennsylvania forward. Yes, he is — more gas tax, registration increase, who knows what other taxes. If he would not have given that federal money to Philadelphia for their transit, we wouldn't have to worry about taxes; the roads could have been repaired. He doesn't care about Pennsylvania; all he worries about is Philadelphia. Thanks Democrats for voting him in."
"Gee, what a surprise, announcing the tax hike right after the election. Ed never met a tax he didn't like."
"Gov. Rendell took millions of dollars in federal highway funds that should have gone to replace and repair our roadways and gave them to his cronies in Philadelphia SEPTA to buy some Democratic votes. He also very conveniently didn't mention this until well after the election. So people have a right to complain about Rendell. They were told he was a tax and spender and now it's coming true."
"Funny Rendell didn't manage to get his gas tax hike proposal in before the elections. Now they decide to let us know what they had proposed for us. A little late for our decision on who's to be governor."
"I think it's totally disgusting that they're going to raise gas taxes to fix the roads when the roads have been taxed and taxed and no one improves them. I have driven through most of the states in this union and we have one of the highest gas taxes now. Every other state has much better highways and some without even tolls. This is positively unacceptable."
"Oil is at a 17-month low. One would not know that looking at the rising gas prices recently. I'm not the least bit concerned because I'm just going to sit back and wait for my property tax rebate from the great Gov. Rendell. This will solve all my problems."
"I don't want to pay more in taxes to fund SEPTA and this other transit authority out in Allegheny County. Every time I see a SEPTA bus, the thing is totally empty. It's a joke supporting them. I never ride it and they're just a big traffic nightmare."
"Regarding the state lawmakers getting a 2 percent pay raise for the cost of living, what about the average citizens in Pennsylvania — haven't they been paying more to live for the past five or six years? Don't we deserve a 2 percent raise or deduction in our taxes so we can live better, too, just like you guys do?"
"Rendell gave the money earmarked for roads and highways to SEPTA to buy the Philadelphia vote and now he wants higher fees on cars and gas. If the suits in Harrisburg took a moment away from trying to enhance their income, they would realize the way to solve this is to raise ticket prices. Pennsylvania motorists pay to buy a car, insurance, gas and maintenance. Why should we pay for a system we never use?"
"In reference to the gas hike proposal to fix roads, how come Florida and Delaware can do it without taxing the middle class and the poor? That's all you're going to hurt by raising the tax on the gas. I hope the newly elected people in Harrisburg and Rendell tell this commission to stick it where the sun don't shine."
"Maybe instead of raising the taxes they should change the law so we don't have to pay a prevailing rate to have all these highways built or repaired. That's a little known law that most Pennsylvanians don't know about that the contractor must pay a prevailing rate which makes the highway cost more. If they got rid of that law, like many other states have, they could build a lot more highways for a lot less money."
"The proposed tax hikes to support mass transit is a blatant disregard for the people who do not use those services and have been paying for years just to drive their vehicle. This is totally unconstitutional. It's time they pass the rate increases onto the people who use those services and the money that we drivers are already spending should go to the roads that we use."
"Forget the vehicle registration and license increases, work on property taxes first. That's what you were sent back to Harrisburg to do. If you don't do it, you won't be re-elected. Rendell already gave half a billion dollars to SEPTA and that wasn't enough. Please look out for middle class taxpayers."
"Regarding the fee for vehicle registration and gas tax hike, possibly if we had state emissions for every county in the state, maybe that would help alleviate some of the shortfalls rather than having certain counties being responsible for all the emission testing."
"To those Republicans who said that the Democrats put Rendell in office, look in the mirror pal. A lot of Republicans voted for Rendell because they did not want Swann in office. Read all the papers and documents and you'll see that I am correct."
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Democrats have a dilemma on their hands and we will soon find out how hypocritical the Democratic Party is when it comes to ethics.
Last weekend, Louisiana voters re-elected Rep. William Jefferson to Congress. Jefferson is the nine-term congressman who allegedly hid $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer, according to the FBI.
Voters in arguably the most corrupt state in the nation don't have a problem with congressmen who put their bribe money on ice. Granted, Louisiana Democrats are the dumbest voters in the country. How else do you explain New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin or Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco?
Jefferson's re-election will cause severe problems for the national Democratic Party. Although he hasn't been charged with any crime yet, Jefferson hasn't explained what $90,000 in cash was doing in his freezer.
Where is the outrage by Democratic Party leaders about Jefferson? Why no calls for his resignation? Why no demand for investigations? Why isn't the liberal media hounding Jefferson like they did Tom Delay and Karl Rove?
It will be interesting to see how the Democrats deal with Mr. Jefferson since the party spent all of 2006 complaining about the "culture of corruption" under Republican leadership.
Soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to make this "the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history."
On Tuesday, Pelosi sat down for an interview with Barbara Walters, who named Pelosi the "most fascinating person of 2006."
The topic of corruption came up and Pelosi once again vowed to "drain the swamp in Washington, D.C."
Pelosi told Walters that cleaning up Congress is her No. 1 priority.
"Until we bring integrity to the political process, we won't be able to go forward," Pelosi said. "It's a big, dirty swamp. That's why the very first day of Congress, we will break the link between lobbyists and legislation."
And what about Mr. Jefferson and the $90,000 found in his freezer? That subject didn't come up during the Walters' interview, which was the typical fluff piece Barbara does with celebrities and assorted liberals.
How will Mrs. Pelosi deal with Mr. Jefferson and the bag of frozen cash? Will she shun Jefferson? Will she force him to resign? Don't bet on it.
Republicans have a track record of taking care of their ethically challenged members. You don't have Tom Delay or Bob Ney in Congress anymore. But you still have Democrats William Jefferson, John Murtha and Alcee Hastings in Congress because Democrats refuse to clean up their own messes.
Why isn't the liberal media jumping all over the Jefferson scandal or Pelosi's unwillingness to deal with corruption in her own party?
Pelosi is too busy redecorating her new office to realize it, but the Jefferson scandal and the ongoing hypocrisy of the Democrats will be remembered by voters in 2008 when Republicans will regain control of Congress.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
73,614 -- The number of dollars paid to a freshman Pennsylvania legislator as of Dec. 1, 2006, when the 10th consecutive pay raise (they call it a cost-of-living-increase) for these "public servants" kicks in.
24,571 -- The annual per capita income of a Pennsylvania worker, roughly one-third of what a freshman state legislator makes.
2,451,832 -- Number of votes Gov. Ed Rendell received in the November election.
1,608,285 -- Number of votes GOP challenger Lynn Swann received in the November election.
8,182,876 -- Number of registered voters in Pennsylvania.
5,731,044 -- Number of registered Pennsylvania voters who did not vote for Gov. Ed Rendell the November election.
6 -- The number of days after the Nov. 7 election Gov. Ed Rendell's transportation commission waited to issue a report recommending $1.7 billion in new taxes and fees to repair Pennsylvania’s deteriorating roads and bridges and keep its failing mass transit systems afloat.
76 -- The current age of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who would take over as the state’s chief executive should Gov. Rendell pursue national ambitions.
55 -- The number of Pennsylvania legislators fired by voters or forced into retirement in 2006. Unfortunately, there's still around 200 more legislators who were returned to office.
28 -- Pennsylvania's ranking on the list of healthiest states released this week by the United Health Foundation.
347,000,000 -- The cost in millions of dollars that Pennsylvania taxpayers shell out each year to support the largest state legislature in the country, including 253 elected legislators and 3,000 people who work for them.
2,700,000 -- The number of dollars in millions Pennsylvania taxpayers pay their legislators as a reward for showing up in Harrisburg. It's a racket called "per diem," in which legislators collect $141 each day they show up for work (on top of their $73,614 annual salary and the most lucrative benefits package in the country).
77 -- The average number of days Pennsylvania lawmakers were in session in each of the past five years. (Legislators typically take the entire months of July, August and December off).
2008 -- The next year voters will have an opportunity to continue the housecleaning in Harrisburg when 25 state senators and all 203 state representatives run for re-election.
50 -- The number of state senators in the Pennsylvania legislature. In contrast, California, with a population of 36 million, has 40 state senators in its legislature.
203 -- The number of state representatives in the Pennsylvania legislature. California, which has four times the population of Pennsylvania, has 80 state representatives. Unlike Pennsylvania, where lawmakers can serve for life, California has term limits for state legislators and they do not receive a taxpayer-funded pension. Pennsylvania lawmakers who stay in office for 20 years earn an average pension of $53,400 a year for life.
8 -- The number of Republican House seats lost in the Nov. 7 election under the leadership of John Perzel and Sam Smith. Inexplicably, Republicans re-nominated Perzel and Smith to leadership posts for the next two years.
7 -- The number of newly-elected House Democratic Caucus leaders (out of a total of 7) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
6 -- The number of newly-elected House Republican Caucus leaders (out of a total of 8) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
4 -- The number of newly-elected Senate Republican Caucus leaders (out of a total of 6) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
6 -- The number of newly-elected Senate Democratic Caucus leaders (out of a total of 7) who supported the July 2005 pay raise.
501 -- The number of school districts in Pennsylvania, each employing a superintendent earning an average of $114,000 a year regardless of experience or the size of the school district.
33,000 -- The total number of children forced to miss school so far in 2006 by teacher strikes. Pennsylvania ranks No. 1 in the nation in teacher strikes.
0 -- The amount of money Pennsylvania residents have received in promised tax relief from casinos during Gov. Ed Rendell's his first four years in office.
0 -- The amount of time the Pennsylvania Legislature spent debating a bill that allows casinos to serve unlimited free drinks to gamblers.
0 -- The number of programs set up by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to help state residents with gambling addictions since casino gambling was approved on July 4, 2004.
Monday, December 04, 2006
They hit the jackpot, winning not only both houses of Congress, but the majority of governorships and many state legislatures. Could this be a seismic shift that will bring the Democrats out of the political wilderness or is it an anomaly? I'm leaning toward an aberration.
The 2006 election will go down as a footnote in U.S. history. It was a no-confidence vote on a president who led us into an unpopular war. The clock is already ticking on the Democratic Party.
Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be Speaker of the House, has already made a major blunder. She was rebuffed by her own members when they rejected John Murtha, Pelosi's hand-picked choice for majority leader. And Pelosi is having a difficult time controlling the oddballs in her party.
Take New York Congressman Charlie Rengel. He wants to re-institute a military draft, a move that would be political suicide for the party in power.
And how long will the far left fringe element of the party remain silent? The liberals control the party leadership and the money. They want to steer the country toward their own extreme agenda and expect Pelosi to start catering to them. Will she risk alienating her coalition of conservative Democrats from the South and West to appease the liberals from the East Coast and California?
Just before the election, I finished a book by Joe Klein, a well-known Democratic Party cheerleader. Even with the success the Democrats enjoyed Nov. 7, I suspect Klein would still say that the Democratic Party is headed nowhere.
A political columnist for Time magazine, Klein has written five books, the best known of which is “Primary Colors,” an inside look at how Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992.
Klein's latest, “Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid,” takes a look at how both major political parties have veered off the deep end in the past decade.
Klein pulls no punches in describing the sad state of American politics.
“The Republican Party, once the home of a prudent conservatism, has gone foolishly radical — fiscally irresponsible at home intemperate and bullying abroad, purveyors of an intrusive religiosity that is shockingly intolerant of science or reason,” Klein writes.
Klein saves the harshest criticism for Democrats.
“The Democratic Party, once the home of democracy's more gracious impulses, has become a reactionary bastion — its signature issues of health, education and welfare held hostage by teaching and social-work bureaucracies that are utterly resistant to change; its spiritual vigor sapped by vehement secularism and an overdependence on the judicial system, symbolized by the fanatic defense of abortion rights; its soggy internationalism spineless in the face of a dangerous world,” Klein writes.
Klein sees both parties on the edge of precipice, with extremists on both sides ready to push the party faithful into the abyss.
“Both parties swan toward their extremes, since the extremists are the most adept at raising money and crowds, using direct mail, negative advertising, and the other dark arts of political consultancy,” Klein writes. “And individual politicians, ever mindful of the dangers on all sides, terrified that the next thing they say will become fodder for a thermonuclear negative ad, grow ever more cautious. We are drifting, I fear, toward a flaccid, hollowed-out democracy where honest debate is impossible — a democracy without citizenship.”
Much of the book is an insider's look at every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2004. Stuff only a political addict would be interested in reading. There are occasional gems, such as Klein's explanation of why Al Gore lost a presidential race he should have won in 2000: “He lost the election — actually, it was a dead heat — because he did not seem a credible human being.”
The next two years will be fascinating to watch for anyone who has even a mild interest in politics. It's the first time in 12 years that the Republicans have had to share power with the Democrats, who have steadily veered to the left.
Can the parties work together in a spirit of bipartisanship? That's what most of us hope for. But don't hold your breath.
Klein's book is a bit anti-climactic. He poses a lot of questions, but doesn't have many answers to the problems facing American politics. His advice to politicians is to get rid of the pollsters, consultants, focus groups and just “be themselves.” Not very profound.
I do find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with this observation in Klein's book: “Politics is no longer about governing. The political parties are the same in one regard. Politics today is about how to gain and keep power.
Friday, December 01, 2006
That may include raising the gasoline tax (already the second highest in the nation), the sales tax (one of the highest in the nation) and the income tax (raised 10 percent by Rendell in 2003).
In case you need a reminder of how much taxes Pennsylvania residents pay, here's the monthly recap from the Department of Revenue:
The state collected $1.6 billion in General Fund revenue in November, $56.4 million or 3.6 percent more than anticipated, according to Revenue Secretary Gregory C. Fajt.
Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $9.2 billion, which is $8.7 million or 0.1 percent above estimate, Fajt reports.
Sales Tax receipts totaled $669.4 million for November, which was $16.2 million below estimate. Sales Tax collections year-to-date total $3.6 billion, which is $26.7 million below estimate or 0.7 percent less than anticipated.
Personal Income Tax (PIT) revenue in November was $625.1 million, which was $8.8 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $3.5 billion, which is $17.6 million or 0.5 percent above estimate.
November Corporation Tax revenue of $106.2 million was $48.7 million above estimate. Year-to-date Corporation Tax collections total $996.7 million, which is $32.6 million or 3.4 percent above estimate.
Other General Fund revenue figures for the month included $60 million in Inheritance Tax, which was $500,000 above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $296.9 million, which is $24.1 million below estimate.
Realty Transfer Tax was $39.9 million for November, bringing the total to $252.5 million for the year, which is $18.7 million less than anticipated.
Other General Fund revenue including the Cigarette, Malt Beverage and Liquor Tax totaled $126.4 million for the month, $25.3 million above estimate, bringing the year-to-date total to $574.7 million, which is $28 million above estimate.
In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $171.3 million for the month, $11.7 million below estimate. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund total $1 billion, which is $11.5 million or 1.1 percent below estimate.
The Gaming Fund received $52.8 million in unrestricted revenues for November. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund total $102.8 million. Gaming Fund receipts include taxes, fees and interest. Of the total for the month, $2.8 million was collected in state taxes for property tax relief.
Other gaming-related revenues collected for November included $325,000 for the Local Share Assessment; $406,000 for the Economic Development and Tourism Fund; and $1 million for the Race Horse Development Fund.
Let's review. In the past four years, property taxes have risen by $2 billion for every Pennsylvania homeowner despite Rendell'’s promise to lower them. And thanks to Act 1, signed into law by Rendell, your school board will most like raise the Earned Income Tax or Personal Income Tax in 2007 AND also raise your property taxes. That's what Rendell has done for you in the past four years and you went ahead and gave him another four years in office.
Now that the Democrats apparently control the state House, it will make it that much easier for Rendell to get his way with raising taxes, so get ready to fork over more of your hard-earned dollars to Uncle Eddie.
Don't say I didn't warn you about re-electing Rendell. And now with Bill DeWeese will get his hands on the state budget, start packing. You won't be able to afford to live in this state much longer.